World

Normality returns, Hong Kong govt. gets upper hand

A pro-democracy protester takes an afternoon nap under an overpass near government headquarters in Hong Kong.   | Photo Credit: Wong Maye-E

Authorities in Hong Kong seemed have established an upper hand over student-led protesters, who were unable on Monday to prevent civil servants from going back to work, or the reopening of schools, which had remained shuttered for most of last week.

Unlike last week’s surging demonstration of street power, the number of protesters dwindled into hundreds in the three major protest sites: Mong Kok; Causeway Bay, the shopping district; and Admiralty, the seat of government offices.

Reopening of schools

There was more bad news for the agitators when Sophia Wong, Principal Assistant Secretary of the Education Bureau announced that all 51 primary schools in Wan Chai and Central and Western districts will resume classes on Tuesday. She added that the bureau would decide on the date when kindergartens in these areas could also open.

With the government stealing a march over activists, the stage seemed set for a dialogue with the protesters, who could no longer talk from a position of strength. The Federation of Students was to meet Undersecretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Lau Kong-wah, later in the evening on Monday to prepare for talks with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Alex Chow, the leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, nevertheless kept a brave front, pointing out that the agitation would get its second wind in case the authorities were insincere about the talks.

“This is definitely not the end. We’ve never set a timeframe for how long this should go on. It’s normal for people to go home, to come and go,” said Mr. Chow.

The South China Morning Post, based in Hong Kong, quoted him as saying that, “The ball is in the government’s court … We are all waiting and watching how the government acts, to see if this is their tactic to draw this out or whether they are willing to actually hold dialogue.”

Talks on reforms

The talks are expected to focus on political reforms, rather than on seeking the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive, Leung Chun-ying, as had been demanded earlier.

The opposition activists are seeking open nominations for the 2017 elections to the post of Chief Executive. The Chinese government has committed itself to universal suffrage, but has also stated, as part of the Basic Law formulated in 1990, that a nominating committee will vet the candidates, based on extensive consultations for the 2017 CE’s election.

Reflecting the sombre mood in the opposition camp, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, Hong Kong’s former Chief Secretary who now heads the pro-democracy think-tank ‘Hong Kong 2020’, slammed the British government for its “profoundly disappointing responses” to the protests.

In an op-ed in The Guardian, she chastised Britain for its unwillingness to stand up to China. “Their first instinct is to keep their heads low; they just want things to carry on as before, would like the protests to disappear, and maintain good relations with China.”

Ms. Anson Chan is a regular visitor to western capitals including Washington. In April, she along with Martin Lee, another pro-democracy activist, visited Washington, where they met U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

They also spoke at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a highly controversial U.S. government funded-foundation, well known for mentoring protest movements in Eastern Europe and Latin America.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 3:25:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/normality-returns-hong-kong-govt-gets-upper-hand/article6476088.ece

Next Story